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Keywords:

  • Coastal dunes;
  • indicators;
  • sand deposition;
  • sand erosion;
  • vegetation

Abstract

Dune plants both modify the wind field around them and are impacted by various stress factors, among them sand erosion and sand deposition. As coastal dunes are being either stabilized or remobilized, in response to the changes in the rates of sand and dune movement, the vegetation cover and composition are expected to vary reflecting the differences in the sedimentary conditions. In this field study 315 quadrats of 100 m2, in which the perennial plant species were sampled, were analysed with respect to annual rates of sand erosion and deposition that were measured using erosion pins. A visual exploratory data analysis was introduced, based on selective filtering of samples according to their vegetation cover. This method, combined with established statistical tools, enabled the authors to uncover the inclination and indicative power of nine perennial dune plants to either a stabilized or a mobile environment, and to establish whether they are more prevalent in places undergoing sand erosion or sand burial. Two species were found to be clear indicators of a stabilized environment, Stipagrostis lanata, and Retama raetam. Of the species indicating a mobile environment, only one may be stated as a clear indicator of sand erosion: Silene succulenta, with Cyperus macrorrhizus coming close to being an indicator of a less mobile erosive environment. The best indicator species for sand burial was found to be, as expected, Ammophila arenaria, with Artemisia monosperma also indicating high rates of sand mobility especially when its relative cover is higher than 80%. Such information can be used to monitor natural processes of dune stabilization or reactivation, or to assess the success of a management plan that aims at stabilizing a dune, or at remobilizing it by removing vegetation.